Federal, state, and local landlord-tenant laws regulate the rental market. As a result, landlords and tenants need to be aware of their obligations. According to most state laws and housing standards, the landlord must provide habitable living circumstances. The rental unit meets basic needs such as reliable heat, plumbing, electricity, and solid structural features.
To that end, the law provides a “warranty of habitability.” It not only protects tenants, but it also protects rental property owners from legal action. An expert property manager in Richmond can guide you in navigating landlord-tenant laws.
Hopefully, you don’t need a law to tell you that you must offer your tenants a safe, clean, and habitable living environment. It’s simply the correct thing to do. But, there are additional advantages for you. It helps you attract and retain good tenants and keep your investment property in good condition, lowering the risk of massive, costly repairs later. In light of that, read on as this post discusses what makes rental properties uninhabitable.
What Makes a Rental Property Uninhabitable
- Lack of Necessary Utilities
Essential services like hot and cold water, electricity, and heating are owed to tenants. As the homeowner, you must see that the HVAC system, plumbing, and electrical installations are promptly fixed. In some areas where hot temperatures and sweltering weather can be a health concern, air conditioning is also covered under the warranty of habitability.
Be sure to check your state’s rules on this matter. In addition, certain conditions may have minimum temperature standards for room and hot water temperatures and provide necessary utilities.
- Pest or rodent infestation
In addition to being unpleasant, vermin, roaches, and disease-carrying insects can render a rental home uninhabitable. A bed bug infestation can make the property uninhabitable, but a spider scuttling across the floor is a minor problem. Moreover, vermin like rats and roaches can spread disease and endanger the health of your tenants.
The landlord must call in the exterminators to make the property habitable when these problems arise. This is why many landlords perform annual preventative pest control to avoid dealing with an unanticipated pest issue that might cause tenants to vacate.
The warranty of habitability, however, is not applicable if the tenant is the cause of the pest issues. For example, consider a situation where a tenant leaves trash behind. Hence, a rat or roach issue arises. In that case, since they were the root of the problem, the tenant might be required to foot the bill for pest control.
- Structural issues
Landlords are vested in keeping their rental properties in good condition to protect their investment. However, having a leaking roof, sagging ceiling, or severely damaged walls will impact more than just property values. These problems also create an unsafe living situation for tenants in rental properties.
And suppose a fire or flood caused damage to the apartment or unit. In that situation, the landlord must offer a tenant or tenants alternate housing while the repairs are being made.
Landlord-Tenants Laws Landlords Should Know
- Warranty of Habitability
The implicit promise of habitability is one law with some degree of uniformity, even though landlord-tenant regulations differ from state to state and province to province.
An implied warranty of habitability is an unstated assurance that a rental property satisfies fundamental living and safety standards before occupation and will do so going forward. It only applies to residential leases or rents, not to those for commercial buildings, as the tenants of commercial premises do not reside there. The lease implies this warranty even if it isn’t expressly stated in writing.
- Standards of Habitability and Repairs
Maintenance of a rental home often falls under the purview of the property owner. The building must have a water source that can provide hot and cold running water, which can be managed by either the renter or the landlord. A sewage disposal system must be connected to the water supply, and the water must be supplied to the proper fixtures. Building codes must be followed when installing sewage and water systems. Kitchen sinks, and bathrooms must be correctly installed in the house.
Furthermore, your property must have working plumbing or gas facilities, electric lights, and heating amenities. Older facilities are acceptable if they met the installation standards when they were built. Systems for required ventilation must function adequately. The property needs to be made to withstand fire or has suitable fire extinguishing systems. Carbon monoxide detectors in single-family homes must be functional and in excellent condition. Sensors for carbon monoxide and smoke are required in multi-unit buildings.
Maintenance of a rental property is typically the duty of the owner. For example, let’s take the scenario where there is a significant mold issue in the renters’ bathroom, and no windows allow airflow. Taking care of the mold problem falls under the owner’s purview in this situation. Nonetheless, your tenants will be liable for repairs if a problem with the property needs to be fixed due to their actions or negligence.
- Eviction Regulations
A landlord who wishes to evict a tenant from a rental property must take legal proceedings. Every state has a landlord-tenant eviction law that governs the procedure. Rent arrears, failure to depart the property after a lease arrangement has ended, breach of a clause in the rental agreement, or damage to the property that significantly reduces its worth are all grounds for eviction by a landlord.
Landlords are required to follow the proper eviction procedures before evicting a tenant. Although every state has its rules, most call for giving the renter a termination notice before bringing an eviction action. Suppose the landlord evicts the tenant without a court order. In that case, the tenant may sue to hold the landlord accountable for damages.
Appropriately safeguarding the property requires a rental unit to be deemed habitable because tenants have the right to expect to feel safe there. Understanding what renders a rental home uninhabitable is crucial if you’re a landlord. Regarding the security of their rental home, it is your job to safeguard your tenants’ well-being. You must make sure the house can be occupied.